PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – After successfully navigating a two-game Midwest swing in which three points were earned, the Penguins returned home Monday and began to prepare for this week’s stint of four games in six days.
Pittsburgh will play its next three games on home ice, starting with Tuesday’s tilt against Ottawa, followed by a matchup with Los Angeles Thursday and Toronto Saturday before Sunday evening’s game at physical Columbus.
“Taking it one at a time and taking care of tomorrow,” captain Sidney Crosby said of how the team will handle the busy week. “That’s the most important thing. We can’t attack the week as a whole. Want to make sure we get points wherever we can. We had a good road trip and want to follow that up coming back home for a few.”
Due to injuries to forwards Tom Kuhnhackl and Patric Hornqvist, Mike Sullivan’s team has had to dive into the minors for depth options. But the play of the likes of Zach Aston-Reese and, most recently, Teddy Blueger has been commendable.
“It’s been fun,” the 23-year-old Blueger said after Monday’s practice. “A lot of new experiences and kind of a whole different animal with the road trip. It’s just a lot of learning and trying to soak it all in.”
But beyond the young players, the Penguins are getting improved play from center Riley Sheahan. After scoring just five points in each of the previous three months, Sheahan is already at that total through five February contests.
“He’s playing well,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think Riley is a good, solid, two-way center iceman. He has good size, he has good awareness defensively, he’s good on faceoffs and he’s a real good penalty killer. You can see his ability to make plays. There’s a lot there.”
The Penguins will need that type of play until Kuhnhackl and Hornqvist, who are still considered week-to-week, are able to return.
“There’s a lot of motivation here, that’s for sure,” said Crosby, who broke a scoring drought by netting his 400th career goal Sunday. “With the way things are and how tight the (Metropolitan division) race is, that’s where the focus is. We’re in a huge race that’s really important here down the stretch.”